A few years ago, I watched a Ted talk; which included scientific research finally validating my annoying curiosity. I have been known to over-ask a one word question: “Why?” and I was now vindicated from all those who label me as the toddler who never grew up. Continually asking why can be incredibly annoying to those who just want to produce, who want to have something tangible quickly, who simply want to do anything to fill time or space. But Simon Sinek explains why the most inspirational and, consequently, successful organizations are those who start with “why.” Simon wants us to answer the following questions: What’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief? Why do you exist? Why should anyone care? He also explains that people don’t buy what you do. Instead, they buy why you do what you do.
The established church hates these questions, because we think the answers are obvious and a given. But they are not. We currently live in a culture that does not know our purpose, our cause, our beliefs, nor why they should even care. And we should not expect anyone to buy what we are selling with blind consent. This makes our work more difficult, but also makes our work more rewarding and most relevant to the world we are called to reach, teach, and serve.
To name one real world example, Hewlett Packard (HP) learned this lesson the hard way back in 2011. A year earlier, Apple Computers had released the iPad (on which many of you are probably reading this post) and created an entirely new segment in the electronic device market. No one knew they needed an iPad until they were released, but all of a sudden, they were everywhere. In developing the iPad, Apple had worked its way through the “Golden Circle” of starting with “why,” which informs the process of “how” and ultimately manifests as the “what.” Most people on the outside only get to see the “what” (the final product released to the public). HP, however, saw the money rolling in to Apple’s coffers and immediately wanted to emulate this new product. The company hurriedly produced a very sub par product, rushed it out the door, and (this is what really gets me) had the moxie to charge the same price for the TouchPad (I know, very original) as what Apple was charging for the iPad ($499-$599). To make a long story short, HP eventually relented, instructing all of its distributors to conduct a fire sale, selling the devices for as little as $99. I bought one. But I use an iPad.
HP lost (money, respect, influence) because they took a short cut in trying to be, or at least copy, someone else. Shortly before his death, Steve Jobs even commented in his only authorized biography that he was saddened by HP’s failure, because it was Bill Hewlett himself who first inspired and supported Jobs in his consumer electronic endeavors at an early age. Jobs knew that this botch did not exemplify the original heart of the company.
This all leads me to another answer to the question as to why 801South will not try to be Elevation Church; which has several campuses around Charlotte. (To be honest, I feel a little silly even answering the question, but I also understand that for many in the Matthews area, Elevation might provide the best frame of reference for the new ministry). Elevation has gone through the hard work of answering “why?” for their ministry. For a church, this includes not just the questions mentioned earlier (cause, purpose, belief), but also understanding our identity, our passions, our strengths, the needs and passions of our “audience,” and discerning that to which God is calling us specifically. To simply grab the “what” of Elevation and try to run with it will more than likely be as much a debacle as that of HP’s Touchpad. We cannot afford to attempt a shortcut. We must put in the hard work from the beginning.